In Days of Fire, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, takes us on a gripping and intimate journey through the eight years of the Bush and Cheney administration in a tour-de-force narrative of a dramatic and controversial presidency.
Theirs was the most captivating American political partnership since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger: a bold and untested president and his seasoned, relentless vice president. Confronted by one crisis after another, they struggled to protect the country, remake the world, and define their own relationship along the way. In Days of Fire, Peter Baker chronicles the history of the most consequential presidency in modern times through the prism of its two most compelling characters, capturing the elusive and shifting alliance of George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney as no historian has done before. He brings to life with in-the-room immediacy all the drama of an era marked by devastating terror attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and financial collapse.
The real story of Bush and Cheney is a far more fascinating tale than the familiar suspicion that Cheney was the power behind the throne. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with key players, and thousands of pages of never-released notes, memos, and other internal documents, Baker paints a riveting portrait of a partnership that evolved dramatically over time, from the early days when Bush leaned on Cheney, making him the most influential vice president in history, to their final hours, when the two had grown so far apart they were clashing in the West Wing. Together and separately, they were tested as no other president and vice president have been, first on a bright September morning, an unforgettable "day of fire" just months into the presidency, and on countless days of fire over the course of eight tumultuous years.
Days of Fire is a monumental and definitive work that will rank with the best of presidential histories. As absorbing as a thriller, it is eye-opening and essential listening.
©2013 Peter Baker (P)2013 Random House Audio
"Peter Baker tells the story of Bush and Cheney with the precision of a crack reporter and the eye and ear of a novelist. This is perhaps the most consequential pairing of a president and vice president in our history. And Baker captures it all - the triumphs and defeats, the partnership and eventual estrangement. It is a splendid mix of sweeping history and telling anecdotes that will keep you turning the page." (Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday)
"9/11, two long wars, a crushing recession, neo-cons, and turf wars defined the first decade of 21st-century American politics. In the middle of it all, the president and his powerful vice-president. The complicated and then contentious relationship between Bush and Cheney is worthy of Shakespeare. Peter Baker’s Days of Fire is a book for every presidential hopeful and every citizen." (Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation)
First off, I'll admit I was no fan of George W Bush yet still the man intrigued me. Could he really be as dumb, arrogant, and stubborn as his persona suggests? Well, according to this well written account of his White House years, the answer is yes and no. This is a nicely nuanced portrait of the Bush and Cheney partnership that really only lasted he first term of the presidency. All of Bush's failings are in display here and the author links these in subtle ways with W's character flaws. At the same time, this is hardly a hatchet job. Undeniably the Bush presidency was a time of monumental challenges, some of Bush and Cheney's own making, some not. The influence of each man on the other is depicted in an almost Shakespearian tragic way as initial successes lead to epic failures and estrangement. A compelling read that will likely not satisfy hard core Bush apologists or detractors, this is well worth the read for anyone seeking a better understanding of he partner ship that made he White House tick.
Very balanced report of the Bush/Cheney years. Previously I was a Bush-basher but by the time the audio book ended, I felt some compassion for him. This is not to say that the book is pro-Bush; indeed, the author was careful to point out his mistakes and shortcomings. The portrait of Cheney was excellent. Even if you don't agree with the man, you can't help but respect him for his deference to the president in spite of his oft-held disagreements. Highly recommend this audio book.
I agree with pretty much all the reviews I've seen on this book. It is a good read. It is impartial. Like others, I was hesitant to revisit recent history at length. But I'm glad I did. I was in college from 9/11 through the reelection. We didn't give Bush the benefit of the doubt on anything. In fact the consensus opinion was he was at a useful idiot for multi-national companies to do their bidding, helping his oil company buddies get rich, a holy roller who thought the end of the world was coming, anti-science, bigoted, using threat of terrorism as excuse for suspension of civil liberties and endless war for the military industrial complex. For some reason he was portrayed as Hitler on protest signs. (As we see with Obama, that seems to be the new standard for all presidents.)
I admit I haven't read any other books about Bush/Cheney. I'm sure there are other good ones. The main thing I want to say about reading Days of Fire, particularly to those who, like me, were prone to thinking the worst of these men during that time, is that it provides a credible narrative that corresponds with what they said they were doing. They really thought there would be another terrorist attack. They really thought Saddam Hussein's evasiveness meant he was hiding WMDs. Bush asked all members of the cabinet and all advisers if they had any objections to going into Iraq based on intelligence furnished by CIA. None did. He was really told by Louisiana governor that Katrina response was under control. And of course, the vindication of many policies being that Obama left them unchanged.
Bush comes off smarter than people gave him credit for. He's funny, even witty at times. He can run a meeting. He can inspire the support of academics and experienced public servants. He believes a good boss puts the best person he can find in important posts and delegates. The MBA approach. He stresses loyalty, maybe to a fault (an easy fault to forgive). But he ultimately failed because he put his faith in the wrong people. He was too quick to take verbal assurances that things were under control. His perceptions were not correct. He didn't see Putin's soul. His judgement was off. But he had good intentions, and he tried to do good things in the world. He was more idealistic than his successor. He really believed scenes like the Iraqis with ink on the thumbs presaged a new, Democratic Middle East. This is the portrait Baker lives you with.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
It is too soon to be writing about the Bush/Cheney administration. The pain of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are too raw for most Americans. Peter Baker’s exploration of George Walker Bush’s administration offers interesting historical information. But perspective requires more time.
Baker’s book will not change minds about the success or failure of George W. Bush’s administration. It offers details to supporters and detractors of Bush’s tenure as President. Supporters will admire Bush’s tenacious spirit. Detractors will decry Bush’s obstinate belief in “experts”. Supporters will admire Cheney’s toughness in the face of unexpected consequences. Detractors will vilify Cheney for not foreseeing consequences.
Bush’s silver spooned life is contrasted with Cheney’s stainless steel life. Bush’s parental-rebellion is contrasted with Cheney’s "don't give a damn” wilding. Because Bush and Cheney both attended Yale, they had some common experience but Bush graduated; Cheney did not. This detail reinforces the argument that Bush may have respected Cheney but felt more qualified to be the decider; not only by virtue of position but by virtue of accomplishment. Baker identifies or infers Bush's independence of Cheney's influence; particularly in the second term.
Bush' decisions on war, foreign, and domestic policy will be second-guessed for generations. Though it is too soon to write an unbiased history of “W’s” time in office, Baker reports some interesting details about the George W. Bush’ years. Both Bush and Cheney survive the days of fire but Cheney appears more scorched than Bush at the end of Baker’s tale.
Just like you, I spend my money here and am not on any author's payroll :)
Overall - very good and well worth the listen.
The last portion of Part I and into Part II are very emotional as the author describes how Bush reacted to and handled 9/11 in real time. I was moved to tears also during certain parts of that portion of the recording. Dubya handled it the best anyone could do at the time, and although I have issues with the rest of his presidency...the description of that period and how he and Cheney handled it are worth the entire cost of the title.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I hesitated in getting this book, I was not sure if the book was going to be a whitewash job or acrimonious, but instead I found it to be objective report. Peter Baker is a White House reporter for the New York Times. I find he has written a through, engaging and objective history of the Bush-Cheney years in the White House.
Baker states Vice President Cheney was the most powerful vice president in history. He did more than anyone to shape counter terrorism policy after the 9/11 attack and lead us into war in Iraq. In the second term Cheney looked and acted more like the traditional vice president. President Bush generally pursued a more centrist course on many or most of the issues-over Cheney’s objection. One of the questions in the book, was Cheney always an ultra conservative Republican or did the repeated heart problems cause him to change? Before Bush left office he set up the programs to bail out of the banks and the car companies in an attempt to slow down or stop the recession/depression. The historical judgments of the Bush administration are only beginning to take shape. It has taken several years for the key people to write their memoirs and for the presidents’ friend and subordinates to offer stories they wouldn’t volunteer at the time the Bush team was in the White House. Baker painstakingly worked through all the books published so far and interviewed over 200 people for this book.
I found the section of the book about selecting judges most interesting. I noticed that Bush selected the people whose job it was to find, obtain information on and interview attorneys for judgeship even before moving into the White House. He set about filling every vacancy on all Federal courts. He also had staff looking for a Supreme Court justice, at that time Chief Justice Rehnquist was ill and most likely would be resigning soon. Bush was surprised and pleased to be able to appoint two justices as that would change the balance of the Court. He was looking for someone who was conservative and would not change after being appointed as did Justice Souter. I noted Bush called and spoke to each person appointed to a judgeship, so they would know that he was involved in their appointment. Baker claimed no other president, had called to speak to appointees of the lower courts. Baker spent several chapters describing in detail the court selection process. As I have been reading about the Supreme Court and the legal system recently, I was excited to learn about the process from the viewpoint of the presiding President.
The book traces the upbringing and early careers of both Bush and Cheney and follows them to the end of their time in the White House. The author’s book is notable for its scope and ambition. I am sure it will become a reference source for historians in the future. The process of disillusionment which culminated in Bush’s refusal to pardon Cheney’s aid Scooter Libby forms the heart of the book. Mark Deakins did an excellent job narrating the book.
This book took me over a month to complete and at times I struggled to stay with it but it was so worth it. This is a very comprehensive account of the 8 years Bush 43 held the office of the president. I read Decision Points before this one and this really helped fill in any blanks there may have been. I feel like I know all there is to know about George W. Bush and most of his administration. Great book and finishing it makes for a sad day. It's been a part of my morning commute for quite some time. Definitely recommend, and will recommend Decision Points as well.
George W. Bush comes across as rather well-intentioned and the popular caricature of Bush as stupid and apathetic quickly falls apart as you read this book. Instead, we are allowed to see inside a fractured administration, led by an earnest man who was out of his depth in the oval office until it was too late to the right the course. Intense conflict between the Cheney/Addington true believers vs/ the Rice/Powell/Card/ pragmatists becomes evident early. Bush slowly loses confidence in Cheney and eventually discards his advice almost without exception. Dick Cheney comes across as manipulative, paranoid, deeply impacted by 9/11 and possibly cognitively compromised due to his history of multiples MIs. As his administration draws to a close, Bush tries to do the right thing and clean things up for his successor, but it's too late. (It;s remarkable how unideological Bush seems and how effective Cheney is in promoting a far right ideology on energy, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.)
Cheney was fascinating. The way he lurked quietly, waiting to the end to issue his sober and aggressive assessment of things. The way he conducts the vetting of the 2000 vice POTUS candidates is classic Cheney. It is also rather satisfying to watch him lose influence within the white house and to watch him lose the respect of Bush and associates.
If you want a very realistic account, absent caricatures, of how Bush/Cheney went down, this is the book I would suggest reading first.
Yes,an untold story of the Bush years.
Facts I didn't know were revealed.
A great history lesson. A detailed account of the trials and tribulations of the Bush Presidency and his relationship with his vice president and his staff. Great account of the man George W Bush. Bush bashers will find out how many programs his successor followed. Great book.
Geopolitics, history, and philosophy junkie. I love smoothly flowing prose that moves me effortlessly from one idea to the next.
The objectivity of the research, often giving multiple examples equally, was the most refreshing part.
At 27 hours long, impossible. But I certainly didn't want to stop midway.
A well told true historical account without the trickle of revisionism that often pervades such recent polarizing figures.
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